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Voting Rights and (Un)Equal Citizenship

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This is a brilliant piece by Dahlia Lithwick:

But if you still believe that democracy matters—as I want to—then we must be focused on the right to vote, right now, and on into the indefinite future. To be sure, voting alone can’t fix what ails this country, but we can’t fix anything without a meaningful, immutable, and equal right to vote. And defending the future of free and fair elections requires not just pointing out the jurisdictions that are getting it wrong—by suppressing student voting or implementing illegal voter purges—but also shining a light on jurisdictions that are getting it right, with mail-in ballots or independent redistricting committees. It requires not just being outraged by the fact that the Senate has shown no interest in investigating foreign election interference, but also examining what the consequences might be in elections to come. Whether or not you are counted in 2020 will affect whether or not you actually count thereafter.

It’s easy to blame our current president for dividing the nation. But from its very founding America has been a country defined by formal and informal referendums on its insiders and outsiders. U.S. history is a patchwork of laws and traditions that enforced the brutal legacy of slavery and repressed the rights of women and minorities for centuries. The immigration system was designed around the exclusion of designated nationalities, religions and races. Native Americans, the first Americans, were not properly counted since the founding; it is no accident that their votes are being discounted in advance of the coming elections. This nation has long struggled to define who counts as American and who does the counting.

The United States is now facing a moment that may once again redefine who really counts in this country, and what happens to those who don’t. Much of the maelstrom around Donald Trump’s electoral victory stemmed from the shock of recognition that many purportedly democratic institutions have come to serve anti-democratic purposes: Fears swirled over the Electoral College, gerrymandered districts, and hacked elections.

At the same time, the aftermath of the 2016 election has forced substantive new questions about who gets to be an American. We’ve seen a flood of new rules that will make seeking legal asylum all but impossible. The courts have fielded blatant efforts to rig the census to ensure that only citizens have representation and resources. The administration now claims that the 14th Amendment can be amended by executive order to preclude birthright citizenship. Over the past few years, the machinery of government has made the dividing lines all too clear.

Read the whole etc.

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